On Urgency and Chance

by Holland-Mark | September 25, 2009

I’ve been wandering the streets of Cape Cod this week thinking how storefronts can remain in business when they are only open a few hours per day, 3 days a week and still close for lunch. “Be right back… really!” read the sign. It was as if the faded blue plastic clock hanging on the door was somehow embarrassed as it pointed to a time 2 hours from now. Clearly the meaning of “right back” was up for some interpretation I thought with a smile on my face. The old dog lying inside didn’t even stir as I jiggled the handle. “No really,” his slumbering body seemed to say, “we aren’t here to help you right now.”

On another day of wandering I happened upon several intriguing art galleries with these same words posted to their shut doors: “Open by chance or otherwise by occasional appointment.” I guess my chances were few and far between that day, as all these shops were closed. And without specific instructions on how to make an appointment for now, I proceeded on my way.

One store that was open took no chances and made my very presence at its entrance an urgent matter. A very handsome young man was outside handing out coupons valid only that day, and apparently only right now, as he took hold of my elbow and led me inside. Amid the fragrant soaps and bins of sea salt and sugar scrub, he asks, “What type of smell do you most identify with?” My inability to even answer this question made it obvious that, coupon or not, I probably didn’t belong in this store. However, my capitalistic insecurities soon took hold and after he neatly tucked a “smells like my identity” foot soak into a dainty, handled bag, I marched across the street, determined to reclaim my self-confidence with a strong Bloody Mary.

So all of this has me thinking about the business of chance and the discipline of creating urgency around only the things that matter now. I appreciate the confident shopkeepers that know that what they sell is of unique value, and therefore can boldly wish you, “Better luck next time!” I also appreciate how the young man created urgency around the commodity of foot scrub to earn a dollar that he probably otherwise would not have seen.

So who wins in this upside-down economy of ours: the street salesman who earned my dollar at a shop where I most likely will not return (the residual effect of insecurity); or the shopkeepers who charmed me with their creative yet slightly annoying confidence, enticing me to return later (the residual effect of maybe next time I’ll get lucky)? Perhaps there is no winner at all, but a more profound understanding of the importance of balancing a sense of urgency with the opportunity of chance.

(c) 2009 Jennifer Falk, Account Management, Holland-Mark

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